A Celebration of Irish Women Poets on Bloomsday 2016

The Middle of April by Fiona Bolger

After Robert Hass
 
i
 
whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
the droghte of March hath perced to the roote
my grandfather quotes
Chaucer from the vinyl
 
ii
 
he knows more now
we will too soon
 
iii
in the spring
pelmet of green
 
in the summer
scarf of orange
 
in the autumn
shawl of white
 
iv
 
bamboos knock out a tune
until disturbed by elephants
grazing, discarding as they go
 
v
 
The dangers lie in the jugular. No one really likes the smell of elephant poo but it makes paper of a
high quality. Words written on digested bamboo. Nothing is lost between page and palm.
That is mystery: pen, ink, paper, thread, card, dream, word. A memory clings like the smell of dung.
And there are always fibres
 
vi
 
let there be peace between us
let us learn together
om santhi santhi santhi
 
vi
 
there’s no shit like
your own shit
 
vii
 
And instead of entering the reserve forest we wandered through the village. The tea shop sold weak
milky tea. We heard them, small black cows with bells around their necks.
People warned us an elephant herd was nearby. We found their still steaming dung.
This was all free and unreserved.
 
viii
 
the green mango is sour
best eaten karam with vellum
 
Nagpur loose jackets are rare now
orange trees cut to grow apartments
 
the iron red soil of Niyamgiri
woven into the shawl
 
ix
 
Here are some things to eat from a banana leaf: idli, dhosa, uttapam, appam, idiappam, sambhar,
rasam, chutney, chutney podi, kozhikattai, thair saddam, thokku, chappatti, parratta, puri,
anna saru, chakra pongal, ven pongal. Ungaishtam sapdingo … Eat your desire.
 
x
 
still searching
for the man in the cafe
 
xi
silk saree
 
xii
 
she said: ask them
and he said: no
she said: why is it
like this?
he said: nothing
she said: no
he said:
 
xiii
 
theyn kuricha nari
the fox who has drunk honey
 
xiv
 
and from vinyl I learned
He loves you, yeah, yeah…
Did you happen to see….
myself in those songs?
 
xv
 
agni nakshetram –
water tastes sweet
as mango juice trickles
from finger tip to hand
to elbow and bathed every veyne
in swich licour, of which vertu
engendered is the flour
 
The Middle of April is © Fióna Bolger
 
fiona bolgerFióna Bolger’s work has appeared in Southword, The Brown Critique, Can Can, Boyne Berries, Poetry Bus, The Chattahoochee Review, Bare Hands Poetry Anthology, The Indian Muse and others. Her poems first appeared in print tied to lamp posts (UpStart 2011 General Election Campaign). They’ve also been on coffee cups (The Ash Sessions).
 
Her grimoire, The Geometry of Love between the Elements, was published by Poetry Bus Press in 2013. Her work has been translated into Irish, Tamil and Polish reflecting the journey her life has taken.
 
She is a facilitator at Dublin Writers’ Forum and a member of Airfield Writers. She works as a creative mentor with Uversity MA in Creative Process. She lives between Dublin and Chennai.
 
from The Geometry of Love Between the Elements (Poethead)

Tree Tunnel by Geraldine O Kane

 
We walked mid road under the tunnel of trees
huge trunks branched above us
their leaves feathery boas floating
from about their necks, sheltered us for a moment
– only a moment
 
In a split second through the arc of recess
where the sun had warmed to our skin
came sheeting rain; energetic beads
with bellies full readily dropping their payload.
 
We did not twist with arms flung wide,
in circles with heads thrown back,
catching rain with our open mouths.
After twenty minutes and two car passing’s,
we were drenched chills crept over our bodies.
 
We stopped sought sanctuary along the verge
you mimicking the tree trunks
providing as much shelter as your frame would allow,
curling in on me, latent, against your chest,
chin resting on my porous hair,
elemental I attuned to the call –
of your heart rate, your skin…
 
when a car pulled over
sweeping us away
from the summer downpour.
 
Nadelah is © Geraldine O’Kane.

Geraldine O’Kane is originally from County Tyrone. She has been writing poetry since her teens, and has had numerous poems published in journals, e-zines and anthologies such as BareBack Lit, FourXFour, Illuminated Poetry Ireland, Poetry Super Highway and more.
 
Geraldine is a regular reader at the Purely Poetry open mic nights in Belfast. She has previously been part of a local writing group at the Craic Theatre, and has performed some of her work in local theatres and at the Dungannon Borough Council Arts Festival. Her poetry is mostly inspired by observation and the human condition. She specialises in micropoetry. She held her first solo exhibition in the 2013 Belfast Book Festival, using art, dance and music to interpret micropoetry centred around the theme of relationships and decay.
 
The Poet O’Kane

Laundry by Roisin Kelly

 
It was one of life’s thoughtless routines,
lifting your clothes from my floor.
 
When I find some of your old shirts again
I hold them as gently
 
as if they’re fragile eggshells, the warm
yolk of life gone from them.
 
I know what it’s like to feel as empty
as a man’s unwashed shirt.
 
For the last time, I wash your clothes
with my own; for the last time
 
I perform that domestic ritual of love.
Our clothes hang side by side
 
once more: mine bright, yours dark.
Damp cloth, the scent of floral detergent.
 
Cherry blossoms in April,
two people caught in a sudden shower.
 
Laundry is © Roisin Kelly

.
Pic © Linda IbbotsonRoisin Kelly is an Irish poet who was born in Belfast and raised in Co. Leitrim, and has since found her way to Cork City via a year on a remote island and an MA in Writing at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Chicago, The Stinging Fly, The Timberline Review, The Irish Literary Review, Synaesthesia, Aesthetica, The Penny Dreadful, Bare Fiction, The Baltimore Review, Banshee, and Hallelujah for 50ft Women: Poems about Women’s Relationship to their Bodies (Bloodaxe 2015). More work is forthcoming in Best New British and Irish Poets (Eyewear 2016).

Off Duty by Katie O’Donovan

 
Is my face just right,
am I looking as a widow should?
I pass the funeral parlour
where four weeks ago
the ceremony unfurled.
Now I’m laughing with the children.
The director of the solemn place
is lolling out front, sucking on a cigarette.
We exchange hellos,
and I blush, remembering
how I still haven’t paid the bill,
how I nearly left that day
with someone else’s flowers.
 
Off Duty is © Katie Donovan first published in The Irish Times, 2014, by Poetry Editor Gerry Smyth
 
2013meatpn1Katie Donovan has published four books of poetry, all with Bloodaxe Books, UK. Her first, Watermelon Man appeared in 1993. Her second, Entering the Mare, was published in 1997; and her third, Day of the Dead, in 2002. Her most recent book, Rootling: New and Selected Poems appeared in 2010. Katie Donovan’s fifth collection of poetry, Off Duty will be published by Bloodaxe Books in September 2016. She is currently working on a novel for children.
 
She is co-editor, with Brendan Kennelly and A. Norman Jeffares, of the anthology, Ireland’s Women: Writings Past and Present (Gill and Macmillan, Ireland; Kyle Cathie, UK, 1994; Norton & Norton, US, 1996). She is the author of Irish Women Writers: Marginalised by Whom? (Raven Arts Press, 1988, 1991). With Brendan Kennelly she is the co-editor of Dublines (Bloodaxe, 1996), an anthology of writings about Dublin.
 
Her poems have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies in Ireland, the UK and the US. She has given readings of her work in many venues in Ireland, England, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, the US and Canada. She has read her work on RTÉ Radio One and on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 3. Her short fiction has appeared in The Sunday Tribune and The Cork Literary Review.

Pair Bond by Barbara Smith

 
dedicated to Dolly Parton
 
The talk in the bar lulls a half-time fill:
as I knife scrape the head from another pint,
he hovers, pocket-foothering his change.
 
Steadying for the ask, he addresses
my full frontals, my baby buggy bumpers,
my Brad Pitts, my boulders, my billabongs,
 
my squashy cushions, my soft-focus bristols,
my motherly bosoms, my matronly bulk,
my Mickey and Minnie, my Monica
 
Lewinskis, my Isaac Newtons,
my snow tyres, my speed bumps, my Tweedle Twins,
my milk-makers, my Mobutus, my num-nums,
 
my Pia Zadoras, my Pointer Sisters,
my honkers, my hooters, my hubcaps, my hummers,
my Eartha Kitts, my Eisenhowers,
 
my Gods milk bottles, my Picasso cubes,
my chesticles, my cha-chas, my coconuts,
my dairy pillows, my devil’s dumplings,
 
my objectified orbs, my über-boobs,
my one-parts Lara, my two-parts globe,
my skywards pips, my lift and separate,
 
my airbags, my feeders, my mammy glands,
my Bob and Ray, my big bouncing Buddhas,
my sweater stretchers, my sweet potatoes,
 
my rosaceous rotors, my trusty rivets,
my melliferous melons, my mau-maus,
my tarty, my taut, my pert palookas,
 
my jahoobies, my kicking kawangas,
my agravic gobstoppers, my immodest maids,
my Scooby Snacks, my squished-in shlobes,
 
my cupcakes, my soda breads, my bloomin’ baps,
my brilliant bangers, my brash bazookas,
my windscreen wipers, my Winnebagos,
 
my wopbopaloubop, wopbopalous,
my yahoos, my yazoos and yipping yin-yangs,
my paps, my pips, my pommes-de-terres,
 
my pushed-up, plunged-down, paraded balcony,
my slow reveal, my instant appeal,
my décolletage, my fool’s mirage,
 
and I watch him pay up, steady up and leave.
 
The Angels’ Share (2012, Doghouse) also frequently performed with The Poetry Divas.
Published in Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot, 2012.

Pair Bond is © Barbara Smith
 
barbara-smithBarbara Smith lives in County Louth, Ireland. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast. Her achievements include being shortlisted for the UK Smith/Doorstop Poetry Pamphlet competition 2009, a prize-winner at Scotland’s 2009 Wigtown Poetry Competition, and recipient of the Annie Deeny 2009/10 bursary awarded by the Tyrone Guthrie Centre for Artists and Writers, Ireland. Her first collection, Kairos, was published by Doghouse Books in 2007 and a second followed in 2012, The Angels’ Share. She is a frequent reader with the Poetry Divas, a collective that read at festivals such as Electric Picnic.

Eve labouring for 37 hours; the yes poem

 
Great
   Monumental
Eve
   in pain.
 
Will bring
Forth a Cain 
   Abel
Cannibal.
 
Exhausted stretch
rather/rather/rather
rather/rather/rather
dilate/than die/ Yes.
 
So just. Sous justice.
En vertu de la justice,
pour :
 
(‘In sorrow you shall bring forth children’)
 
Face. Yes. Present. Yes. Hands.
Yes. His image,
Who conjured it?
 
Mouth of dry twigs
The/sticks/stones
Bones/buttons
a knee-piece/skulls.
 
There are piles of skulls
pushing through my grimacing cunt,
 
All the pretty things,
stones/bones/buttons
a knee-piece/ skulls
 
Sous justice.
 
Merci!

Eve Labouring for 37 Hours; the yes poem at Levure Littéraire 12 is © C. Murray
 
I am very grateful to Carmen-Francesca Banciu for publishing my group of poems at Levure Litteraire 12.
 
Baskin_Death_Among_the_Thistles_1959 (1)From the editorial: The Camps of Resistance and Fields of Consciousness, is the theme of this issue. A wide field! A multifaceted theme that addresses many aspects of our time. When we chose this theme, we did not yet realize that the future contributions would be so inspired by the present and focus on specific aspects, such as (e)migration, exile, escape.The drama of flight, losing one´s home and a country – but even the ambivalent feelings toward the refugees- are the main aspects that have emerged from our topic. Many of our writers have dealt with the theme in an artistic, essayistic, philosophical form.
 
Impressive contributions resulted. Among others, even interdisciplinary projects were created, such as the cooperation between the Irish-American writer Emer Martin and the Indian-American artist Moitreyee Chowdhury, a joint video art, poetry and painting contribution. Or the contributions from Gesine Palmer, Sabine Haupt, Peter O’Neill – just to name a few out of the abundance of outstanding contributions.
 
Some contributions deal with the fear of the ever-increasing amount of war zones and therewith the consequences. Among others, the war zones heavily influenced by religion that endanger humanity by forcing them to act in violence, protest or to flee. The fear of new wars, violence–and terrorism. Implicit questions are asked about the consequences of war and poverty that result from the mass migration. The fear of the established political systems and lifestyles collapsing. The fear of cultures, religions and interests colliding and clashing. But also the aftereffects of ecological exploitation and natural disasters.

“Fintona” and other poems by Aine MacAodha

Windowless church

 
My church has no windows
in fact it has no doors either
and to be fair no altar
it has no ordained minister
or priest or gospels.
Its in my heart, in
the starry sky
the moon shining over the land
its the planets in our solar system
the sun when it shines or not
its the foods god/creator
left us, berries, leaves, nuts
my church has winter winds that
cut to the bone and to enlighten
I have the sweet smell of roses
as I follow the seasons.
It is bog cotton waving on an
early Autumn evening as the
sun bids farewell.
On nights like these
dark and Irish wintery
the familiar trees and hills
become ancient septs
ready for battle with the ether.
Fields caped in winter fog
appear as crafted cities of the dead
souls roam among the rushes
in search of utopia or a home.
Trees scan the darkened horizon
the wind calls out names too and
winter hangs around like a threat.
This is my church.
 

Distractions

 
It’s the end of April.
Spring late this year
begins its infinite ascent
to the tips of the cherry tree
birds come by often
a come-all-ye in the front garden
their songs reach an inner place
like listening to Franz Haydn
his strings reaching out
from centuries past making clear
contact in a podcast
channelling his toils and efforts
an artist whose initial struggles
with mind, soul, pocket
rise and fall with each
strike of the bow
altering my thoughts on outer things
a distraction, like the bird song often
heard in my childhood estate longing
for far flung horizons.
 

Stone circle alignments

 
They invite soul connection
invoke an energy of some sort
long past histories underfoot.
Early man was quite the architect
aligning the stones in such a way
that at equinox and solstices
sun rises to light up the passageway.
A seeking brings people here
an ancient longing that needs met.
Creevykeel court tomb is a full tomb
the largest in Ireland.
Tievebaun Mountain seems to guard it
shadows come and go with the sunsets.
we don’t give ancient man enough credit
for the science they carved into the landscape.
 

Fintona

 
Or to give it its’ town-land meaning
A fairly coloured field.
A small country town, familiar, friendly.
one can see the whole shopping street
from left to right without shifting a foot.
There is a jewel though
a hidden forested area
where a raised fairy fort stands
once druids conferred their words
in praise of nature.
 
There too I find the remains of a
burnt out wreckage of a car
perhaps stolen years ago left now for
mother nature to clear up which she did
wrapping her briars in and through the doors
designing the broken glass with her leaves.
 

Awakening

 
Sun slants in through the venetian blinds
dust particles float in the narrow space
books, a pen, Sundays newspapers
and a mobile phone cling on the quilt cover.
 
Its 9.30am Spring has come, crisp April air
drifts in from the ajar window, it will soon be
Summer again, warmth of the sun rejuvenates.
 
I wander the halls of my mind on wakening
sieve through last nights dream
catching broken pieces of a story or place
and wondering all day if it meant something.
 
Fintona and other poems is © Aine MacAodha
These poems have been published in the online journal Episteme, Vol. 4(1), June 2015 under the section IRISH POETRY | Web address | http://www.episteme.net.in/

 

Aine MacAodha is 52 year old writer from Omagh North of Ireland, her works have appeared in Doghouse Anthology of Irish haiku titled, Bamboo Dreams, Poethead Blog, Glasgow Review, Enniscorthy Echo, poems translated into Italian and Turkish, honorable mention in Diogen winter Haiku contest, Shamrock Haiku, Irish Haiku, thefirscut issues #6 and #7, Outburst magazine, A New Ulster issues,2 ,4, 27. Pirene’s Fountain Japanese Short Form Issue, DIOGEN Poetry, Argotist Online, The Best of Pirene’s Fountain ‘First Water’ Revival and Boyne Berries. She self published two volumes of poetry, Where the Three rivers Meet and Guth An Anam (voice of the soul). Argotist online recently published ‘Where the Three rivers Meet’ as an E book. Her latest collection Landscape of Self was published by Lapwing Press Belfast.
 
https://sites.google.com/a/lapwingpublications.com/lapwing-store/aine-macaodha
http://ainemacaodha.webs.com/index.htm

Four voices confront the absence of women in Irish poetry

I have endured the scholastic training worthy of someone of learning.
I am versed in the twelve divisions of poetry and the traditional rules.
I am so light and fleet I escape from a body of men without snapping a twig,
without ruffling a braid
of my hair, I run under branches as high as my ankle and over ones high as my head, I scrape thorns from my feet
(not mine) while I run, I dance backwards away from myself, these rites
are quite common among primitive nations,
I am seldom admitted into the companionship of the older, the full privilege of the tribe, without them.

By Kathy D’Arcy A Meditation on Ireland, Women, Poetry and Subversion” at the Honest Ulsterman.

There is a narrative gap in Irish poetry that appears to the woman poet, her reviewer, and the poet essayist as ‘absence’, indeed as a type of intellectual privation. That a new generation of women writers are confronting Irish women poets absence from the canon, along with it’s previous attendant tokenism, is truly delightful to me. We are busily exploring emergent genealogies in Irish Poetry, or it could be stated that we are unhappy with what Eavan Boland refers to as a suppressed narrative. To bring forward a skewed national cultural narrative that disavows the woman poet’s place in the canon is to my mind culturally damaging. Not alone is it culturally damaging to present part of a narrative that claims the intellectual impetus in the imaginative creation of a nation, it is personally and professionally damaging to women poets and to nascent writers who are now devoid of their narrative heritage.

Alex Pryce confronts the absence of Northern Irish women poets in her thesis “Ambiguous Silences ? Women in Anthologies of Contemporary Northern Irish Poetry” I read about Pryce’s worthy thesis in Moyra Donaldson’s blog under The Influence of Absences sometime ago. I was so interested in what Pryce had to say that I downloaded the PDF from her Academia.edu account. At the same time, I was in conversation with Emma Penney who had sent me a copy of her thesis Now I am a Tower of Darkness: A Critical History of Poetry by Women in Ireland. Penney and Pryce are investigating and confronting the constructed heroic post-colonial narrative that has really has done it’s time by now. The post-colonial narrative beloved of some critics who would view the whole world as an extension of their ideation has been flogged to death. It’s over darlings. I grew up not knowing or studying any Irish women poets. The women writers that I read in college were Elizabeth Barrett-Browning (in epic poetry and quasi-feminism) and Virginia Woolf. It was as if women poets did not exist in Ireland.

Irish women poets have never quite left us however, despite their historical absence from anthologies and from third level academic study. There has been a slight recent improvement in the publication of women poets and in their critical review, but it is not enough. Our women poets emerge whole and singing in essays, in current blogs like in Billy Mills Elliptical Movements, and in lines of melody put through mine and others’ search engines. It is time to celebrate our absent poetry foremothers and to confront the indignity conferred upon Irish women poets who were thrown to the side in the search for a heroic poetry to express our chosen political-cultural narrative.

In her thesis, Now I am a Tower of Darkness: A Critical History of Poetry by Women in Ireland, Emma Penney challenges the critical reception of Eavan Boland and the restrictive criteria, developed in the 1970’s, under which poetry by women in Ireland has been assessed. She considers the subversive nature of women’s poetry written between 1921 and 1950, and calls into question the critical assumption that Eavan Boland represents “the first serious attempt in Ireland to make a body of poems that arise out of the contemporary female consciousness”. In Object Lessons, Boland concluded that there were no women poets before her who communicated “an expressed poetic life” in their work. Emma’s thesis reveals how this view has permeated the critical landscape of women’s poetry, facilitating an absurd privation of the history of poetry by women in Ireland and simplifying it in the process. Emma Penney’s work centres around the poet Freda Laughton, her thesis was picked up by Jacket2 Magazine and The Bogman’s Cannon blog.

Kathy D’Arcy looks at the absence of Irish Women Poets in anthologies, and at literary feminism, in her “A Meditation on Ireland, Women, Poetry and Subversion” at the Honest Ulsterman,
Once there was a woman – no, two women. Then they became beasts, then trees, then stones then even stars. How they fought! And that woman was Cú Chulainn.[4] And that woman was Fionn Mac Cumhaill, daughter of Cumhall. And that woman was Queen Maeve. And that woman was Brian Boru. And that woman was Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, and that woman was her husband Airt Uí Laoighire. And that women was Pope John Paul the Second. And that woman was Declan Kiberd.

In Catriona Crowe’s Testimony to a flowering, a marvellous essay on the erasures, faults, absences and blindness exposed for all to see in the first Field Day Anthology,
When confronted about the near absence of women from the book, Seamus Deane stated that ‘To my astonishment and dismay, I have found that I myself have been subject to the same kind of critique to which I have subjected colonialism. I find that I exemplify some of the faults and erasures which I analyze and characterize in the earlier period.’ It is perhaps possible to compress these sentiments into ‘I forgot’, but he did not say the words. He said that documents relating to feminism would be his first priority for inclusion in the revised paperback edition of the anthology, expected to appear in one or two years.

And yet, privations occur and recur in poetry lists, in national celebrations, and in other media or tourist-led strategies that consistently and poorly neglect the woman literary artists’ voice. I do not know if it is intellectual laziness, or if it is that the cultural narrative is so engrained that no-one questions the historical absence of women in Irish poetry? Indeed also in the theatre arts, as can be seen in the recent Waking the Feminists debacle. Maybe it is time to look closely at the Irish view of women that is set in stone in the Constitution and confront the idea that women literary artists fought for our cultural heritage just as hard as men did, but for some lazy and elusive reason, we refuse to celebrate their work.

 

Dorothea Herbert

 

‘Cry Oceans’ by Mary Cecil

Cry Oceans

 
Cry oceans and weep the seas
Where waves flow over
The endless motions of life
The swimming perfection that flees
 
The Armageddon of destruction
By all means possible
The mechanisation of death
The beginning of the end
 
For whales and tuna to consume
The mercury to garnish
The insatiable greed to fill
The merciless plunderers
 
To crush and pulp for cattle
The wanton waste of the world
That flies in the face of God
And wilts in the sun
 
The lonely song of the whale
That echoes in silent reproach
The albatross that soars
Over oceans of emptiness
 
The flowering coral that dies
Blooming in acid
The hymn of death
Beneath blue heaven
 
© Mary Cecil, Rathlin Island
 
Written in protest to the mechanisation of fishing with super trawlers

Mary Cecil is the mother of large family and Grandmother to eleven. The widow of Rathlin Island’s famous campaigner, diver, author (Harsh winds of Rathlin) Thomas Cecil. Lover of Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island. Mary enjoys community development and current events. She has been writing poetry for several years. Enjoys writing a variety of poems, spiritual, war, romantic, protest and nature. Keen to compose more poems based on Rathlin Island’s myths & legends. She worked in owning and managing tourist facilities both on and off Rathlin Island. Public Appointment as Lay Member, The Appropriate Authority, Criminal Legal Aid Board .

Mary Cecil’s Rathlin Island poems

“Nadelah” and other poems by Geraldine O’Kane

Hitting to Hurt

(after ‘The Leaping Lamb’)
 
Everybody saw us as the bull
and the lamb, that is how I hid for so long.
 
He was a chunk of a man; I sliced him
to bits with my words, buried him with shame.
 
I am sorry for using such callous language,
I’ll try to rein myself in; let’s start again.
 
The first time my hands rose, it felt
like they belonged to someone else;
afterwards I wished so hard that they did.
 
It’s not like it happened everyday
but the second and third time I knew
the fists were mine and I kept on using them.
 
He stood there as I threatened to leave him
if he didn’t fight back or if he did I’d go anyway;
soon I was saving all my energy and hitting to hurt.
 
Once I drew blood and no longer saw him
as either bull, husband or human being;
it was then I knew I needed help.
 
Commissioned by Artist Brian Kielt for an Exhibition in aid of StART Talking a local mental health charity.
 

Nadelah

(meaning one who has been transformed)
 
Pre-boundaries and pre-colonisation, I was Nadelah to my Native American tribe, a sacred gift, a two spirited, third gender, in continuous state of transformation. Born raw, I existed ungendered until the ceremony of the basket and the bow, where my choice let me live revered not feared. Pre-boundaries and pre-colonisation, I transcended the masculine and feminine, to see in both directions. I was a conduit to the spirit world, I lived a life of community, unaware of my sexuality, until the white man straightened the circle I inhabited. Renamed me Berdache – but I tell you I was slave, sexual or otherwise to no one.
 
Biligaana must show himself
a liar or conceive –
I am his single spectre.
 
Berdache (Boy kept as sexual slave)
Biligaana (Navajo for White Man)

The Living Room

 
My grandmother’s kitchen was a tea cosy,
knowledge and love brewed there in equal measure.
Everyone reached full flavour inside that room –
with the softest unsliced bread in Ardboe
and the sweetest bananas.
 
The cake mixer was always whipping up something
to go with the tin kettle permanently on the boil.
If you were lucky you would hit on licking-time;
buttercream from the bowl is best! Days clinked
to a start, and ended with spoons stirring hot milk
and bread for her cats. She smoked twenty a day
in that room with hardly a window open and
forever smelt of Yardley – Lily of the Valley.
Evenings rendered the kitchen silent
as everyone poured into the living room.
 

Playtime

 
We were playing hide and seek round our estate,
when he grabbed my wrist.
Much older than the other kids
he would know all the good places, so we ran.
He took me to the best spot,
“scream”, he said,
“no one will hear you.”
 

Presence

 
He used to greet her with a noose,
Wait for her to ‘talk him down’.
 
Until the sight had her turning on her heel,
voice squeezing through the closing
front door, “do it, see if I care”,
unsure she believed.
 

Doorman at ‘Invisible Illness’

 
Falling out of sleep into feeling
all belonging to me is dead,
yet you are there right beside me;
my dad calls it his black days,
mum calls it the days her head
is not in this world.

 
In my teens this didn’t register
now I know the fight too well;
days when I am quiet,
methodical to rise and shower,
dress, make myself up before breakfasting
but always a hug and a kiss –
wishing you a beautiful day,
before I head out to work,
you keep the wounds from my door.
 

Tree Tunnel

 
We walked mid road under the tunnel of trees
huge trunks branched above us
their leaves feathery boas floating
from about their necks, sheltered us for a moment
– only a moment
 
In a split second through the arc of recess
where the sun had warmed to our skin
came sheeting rain; energetic beads
with bellies full readily dropping their payload.
 
We did not twist with arms flung wide,
in circles with heads thrown back,
catching rain with our open mouths.
After twenty minutes and two car passing’s,
we were drenched chills crept over our bodies.
 
We stopped sought sanctuary along the verge
you mimicking the tree trunks
providing as much shelter as your frame would allow,
curling in on me, latent, against your chest,
chin resting on my porous hair,
elemental I attuned to the call –
of your heartrate, your skin…
 
when a car pulled over
sweeping us away
from the summer downpour.
 
‘Nadelah’ and other poems is © Geraldine O’Kane.

9975568Geraldine O’Kane is originally from County Tyrone. She has been writing poetry since her teens, and has had numerous poems published in journals, e-zines and anthologies such as BareBack Lit, FourXFour, Illuminated Poetry Ireland, Poetry Super Highway and more.
 
Geraldine is a regular reader at the Purely Poetry open mic nights in Belfast. She has previously been part of a local writing group at the Craic Theatre, and has performed some of her work in local theatres and at the Dungannon Borough Council Arts Festival. Her poetry is mostly inspired by observation and the human condition. She specialises in micropoetry. She held her first solo exhibition in the 2013 Belfast Book Festival, using art, dance and music to interpret micropoetry centred around the theme of relationships and decay.
 
The Poet O’Kane